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Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King's men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.
Here also is the Revolution as experienced by American Loyalists, Hessian mercenaries, politicians, preachers, traitors, spies, men and women of all kinds caught in the paths of war.
At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books -- Nathanael Greene, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston in the dead of winter.
But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost -- Washington, who had never before led an army in battle.
The book begins in London on October 26, 1775, when His Majesty King George IIIwent before Parliament to declare America in rebellion and to affirm his resolve to crush it. From there the story moves to the Siege of Boston and its astonishing outcome, then to New York, where British ships and British troops appear in numbers never imagined and the newly proclaimed Continental Army confronts the enemy for the first time. David McCullough's vivid rendering of the Battle of Brooklyn and the daring American escape that followed is a part of the book few readers will ever forget.
As the crucial weeks pass, defeat follows defeat, and in the long retreat across New Jersey, all hope seems gone, until Washington launches the "brilliant stroke" that will change history.
The darkest hours of that tumultuous year were as dark as any Americans have known. Especially in our own tumultuous time, 1776 is powerful testimony to how much is owed to a rare few in that brave founding epoch, and what a miracle it was that things turned out as they did.
Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 69.
- Review Date: 2007-07-30
- Reviewer: Staff
This handsome new version of McCullough's blockbuster (2.6 million copies of the original edition in print) is a visual feast. The text is abridged, but McCullough illustrates his riveting account of “the most important year in the war that made America” with maps, portraits and reproductions of broadsides and newspaper ads. Many famous paintings are included—Washington Crossing the Delaware (which, McCullough notes, captures the drama of the moment, even though many of the details are inaccurate); Charles Wilson Peale's portraits of Alexander Hamilton and Gen. Nathanael Greene; John Singleton Copley's portrait of Mercy Otis Warren, who wrote an early history of the revolution. McCullough also introduces less well-known images, such as a satiric print poking fun at the British prime minister, Lord North. Scattered throughout are vellum envelopes that hold facsimile reproductions of 37 primary sources—letters from George Washington to Martha, an ambrotype of Continental soldier Ralph Farnham as a centenarian, the text of a vow of allegiance to the king taken by Loyalists in New Jersey. By including these documents, McCullough has recreated not just the excitement of 1776, but the thrill of an archival research trip as well. From start to finish, this volume is a delight. (Oct.)
David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, has improved upon his best-selling history, 1776, with 1776: The Illustrated Edition. An "interactive" version that includes relevant period artwork and facsimiles of historic maps, documents, broadsides, newspapers and correspondence, this beautifully designed edition adds a visual grace note to McCullough's eloquent, moving text. The narrative is abridged from the original book, but it is no less informativethe full impact of the trials of Gen. George Washington and America's fledgling rebel army is brought startlingly to life with the addition of famous images such as Washington Crossing the Delaware and portraits of key personages like Gen. Nathanael Greene, Alexander Hamilton and Gen. Henry Knox.
Tucked throughout the book are vellum envelopes filled with removable reproductions of historical documents, most notably Washington's letters to his wife and colleagues and recollections of the war from Continental Army soldiers. McCullough has wonderfully re-created the "times that try men's souls," not only from the American perspective, but from the viewpoint of the British commanders and Loyalists. This is a robust and insightful look into the hard-won freedom of our nation.